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The Daily Tar Heel

Terrapins throttle Breland-less Tar Heels

UNC forces 28 turnovers, but gets outmuscled in paint

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — When the North Carolina women’s basketball team stepped onto the Comcast Center’s court to face Maryland, a notable absence shook UNC’s starting lineup.

Without senior Jessica Breland — who sat out Sunday’s game due to shifting floating bodies in her kneecap — No. 10 UNC struggled to counter a physical and well-sized Maryland defense in its 88-65 loss to the No. 15 Terrapins.

And while UNC’s offense floundered, the Terrapins’ shone.
“For us it was just a dominating win from start to finish,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “In both halves, it started with our defense and led to our offense.”

Maryland (16-3, 3-2 ACC) shot an impressive 55.2 percent from the field in the first half — 75 percent from beyond the arc — to take a 12-point lead on the Tar Heels (17-3, 3-2).

The last 20 minutes of play only worsened North Carolina’s troubles.

The young Terrapins continued to sink shots and dominate boards to pull away from the Tar Heels uncontested, turning to a balanced team for 31 points off the bench. Five Maryland players scored double-digit points, and the Tar Heels never trailed by fewer than 12 points in the period.

“They’re very big and very physical,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “It was an extremely physical game. In fact, I’ve probably been to some boxing matches that weren’t quite as physical as it was out there, but that’s the way the game is right now.”

While UNC ruled the court with an aggressive 17 steals, the team struggled with finishing on momentum-changing plays and easy transition points.

Although the Terrapins committed 28 turnovers, they made up for it by out-rebounding and blocking the Tar Heels’ attempts at penetrating layups.

“Anytime you have 17 steals, I mean, that’s pretty doggone good,” Hatchell said. “You would think that most of those would lead to points, but they didn’t. Anytime you force 28 turnovers … those are the types of things you want to create to create points, especially when you’re outsized like we were.”

That sheer physicality underneath the basket stopped the Tar Heels’ bigs from creating the impact Hatchell and the team have seen from players like Chay Shegog and Waltiea Rolle in UNC’s recent games.

North Carolina instead relied on the senior leadership of Italee Lucas to take the reins in Breland’s absence.

“Jessica’s presence there — it does matter,” Lucas said. “As far as the leadership role goes, it was a lot to take on at the time.”

The guard began the game with an easy jumper for an immediate UNC lead but couldn’t spark a lead change with her team-high 17 points.

Breland is expected to return to play in 10 days after doctors removed floating bodies that locked underneath her kneecap. In the meantime, UNC will be working on its aggression.

“We need to get tougher on the inside, just physically all around,” Lucas said. “There’s going to be bigger teams out there, so you can’t let the physical aspect determine how you play.”

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